The quality of sunshine isn’t something we discuss every day. We moan a bit if it is too hot, or if we haven’t seen any sunshine for a few days. But QUALITY. Not really on the conversational agenda.
Well, it wasn’t for me until I started doing a fair bit of travelling for work. Discovering that standing outside at noon in Holland in winter, staring desperately at a pale source of glimmer just didn’t do it for me. Desperate for sunshine of that clear kind we usually have in Jo’burg, I tried to imagine it as I stood there, eyes closed against sun-damage. But it just didn’t work! No that wasn’t MY kind of sunshine. Too far north, and maybe too much moisture in the air. The vague shape that was my shadow, miserably dragging behind me, when really no-one would have noticed if it just curled up and died there on the ground.
Getting off the local train at Dallas North station, hearing the cicadas and gasping at the heat, I reveled in the brilliant, sharp and so-dangerous sunshine. Like home. The shadows clear and crisp. There’s no wondering what’s sunshine and what’s shadow. You could cut yourself on the dividing line.
Beijing in Autumn, when the clouds sit on top of the building, and you really only know its day because they are a paler grey than they are at night. Then the delight of next day in Hong Kong, going above the city smog and seeing the sunlight twinkling on the water in the South China Sea. Gentler than the sunshine I’d left behind at home a few weeks earlier, but still very pretty.
Winter days in Australia’s east. A lot like home. Gentler sunshine, but it’s still THERE.
I’m an African. From a continent where sunshine is BIG, strong, often very harsh. Nairobi being so high and on the Equator often has very poor sunshine. Sort of misty-grey coating. But then on the Equator one can be glad of some relief. Cape Town in summer – long hours of strong sunlight, but oh those dreary winter days, when the sun rises so late and then only pretends to visit between the rain and retires so early.
The peoples of the far North have many words for different types of snow, each expressing different qualities of the snow. Why don’t we have different words for sunshine, for the brilliant harsh light, for the gentle morning light, for the so-precious little pale gleams of the winter sun at further latitudes?